By Kebba Jeffang
Gambian President Adama Barrow, visited four hotels owned by Gambian entrepreneurs and currently under construction, as he aspires to see the tourism industry contribute beyond a stagnant 20% to GDP. The President said having many Gambians in the sector, will create more benefits to ordinary Gambians, which is in line with Government’s plans to limit capital flight; that a massive investment from Gambians in the sector, will foster a strong linkage between tourism and other domestic sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, businesses, arts, culture, among others.
President Barrow was speaking at an unannounced visit he made to four Gambian-owned hotels in the Tourism Development Area (TDA), to inspect the state of work and preparations. The hotels include Metzy Residence Hotel, Pamala, African Princess, and Calabash Residence. The tourism season which already started three weeks ago, with several flights from the UK, Europe, and Russia.
Barrow disclosed that his government is aggressively pursuing plans to raise the tourism sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of the Gambia, from 20%.
“Tourism makes 20 percent contribution to our GDP. It is a great source of foreign exchange for our economy and creates thousands of jobs for the youth,” he said.
He stressed that the revenue generated from the sector when retained, would be able to benefit ordinary Gambians.
According to a State House release, construction works at three of the four hotels were at an advanced stage. One of them, Metzy Residence Hotel, owned by Musa Secka, is expected to be inaugurated next month while three others are expected to begin operations early next year.
The CEO of Mamala Hotel Malleh Sallah said: “Our strategy is to have 1,000 Gambians working for us. At the opening, we will employ 300 Gambians.” His hotel is said to be a four-star with 140-rooms and is part of the Djeliba Leisure Group.
He said they have hired some Gambian hotel professionals from abroad to work for them, adding that the furniture is exclusively locally made.
Entrepreneurs Aziz Khan and Freddy Blain own Calabash and African Princess hotels respectively.
Hamat Bah, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, said Government’s objective is to support and promote Gambian ownership of the industry.
According to him, the ones visited would provide top class services, expressing optimism that their presence would add a great value to the industry.
In terms of job creation and standardization, Bah said The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI), is undergoing reforms of both structures, curriculum, and services to train professionals for the industry.